Sunday 29 January 2017

Choosing Happiness: Working Within - Francisco Ugarte

Choosing Happiness: Working Within
Francisco Ugarte
Scepter Press
ISBN 9781594172625

When reading books in translation, at times there is a feeling of things being slightly off. There was no sense of that when I read this book. In fact I have already recommended it to a few friends and from their feedback and my own reading I can state that this is a wonderful book. This English edition of this book is a great tool for Christians looking to grow in part of our fundamental call as followers of Christ. to live happiness, to live joy and to do so by working internally.

In the introduction to this book it states:

"In the literature about happiness, which is surprisingly scarce for a subject of such importance, we tend to find two approaches: the classic and the contemporary. The classic approach, which explains the nature of happiness philosophically, may seem rather abstract to the modern reader, who seeks practical solutions relating to everyday life. The contemporary approach, however, is often reduced to "formulas" for making us happy, formulas that don't solve the basic problem because they lack content.

The purpose of this book is to delve more deeply into the substance of happiness, to reveal the way to be happy in daily life, and to connect this daily joy with the infinite happiness of the next life. As the title Choosing Happiness: Working Within suggests, it's a matter of looking inside ourselves and at our truest, deepest needs, choosing to be happy in this life and the next by identifying and seeking those sources of happiness which meet and match authentic human needs."

Then the book goes on to examine what is true happiness, what are some barriers to happiness and gives many examples of happiness. And even what many falsely assume is happiness. The sections in this book are:

The Natural Inclination toward Happiness
Pleasure, Joy, and Happiness
A Difficult Conquest
Is Happiness for This Life or the Next?
The Possession of Material Goods
An Interior Task
Dependence on Choice
The Present and the Ordinary
The Poison of Resentment
The Remedy of Forgiveness
The Problem of Envy
Solutions to Envy
What Studies Reveal
Naïve, Misguided, or Enthusiastic "Optimism"
The Threat of Pessimism
The Nature of Optimism
Keys to Optimism
Suffering and Evil
The Process of Suffering
The Meaning of Suffering
The Human Value of Suffering
The Spiritual Value of Suffering

Francisco states: "The path to happiness seems to be progressive in the sense that we can never say, while traveling it, that we have reached the goal. We can always be happier. And being happy is equivalent to having "a successful life," as various contemporary authors have rightly noted;6 the subjective consequence of happiness is a sensation of permanent peace, which can be distinguished from simple pleasure and also from joy." But that does not mean we should stop striving for it. The author makes big distinctions between, joy, pleasure and happiness. The way the distinction between these three is described is: "The three distinctions described here correspond to a state of being that we often colloquially refer to as happiness. We say that someone is happy when we are actually referring to the immediate result of a specific pleasant stimulus, such as alcohol; we say someone is happy when a life event produces a perception of more stable happiness, such as attaining a goal. The latter is more properly identified with joy; we can say that we are joyful for having achieved what we have intentionally worked toward. It is one's permanent situation, one that no longer depends on particular circumstances, that constitutes happiness." And from that conclusion then goes on to highlight how we can work towards true happiness.

"If happiness occurs in the interior of a human and if that is where we must work to obtain it, it follows that our happiness depends on ourselves. Some who are not happy blame their unhappiness on another person-a husband, a mother-in-law, an associate at work-or on external circumstances, such as the economic situation, sickness, old age, the problems of the country, and so on. This makes it appear that to obtain happiness, we first must solve all of those difficulties, which may lead us to conclude that happiness is utopia and it is better to give up on it."

Francisco provides a list of what we should choose to truly choose happiness.:

  1. Choose attitudes that favor happiness.
  2. Watch our reactions.
  3. Avoid egocentric orientation.
  4. Orient our lives toward gratifications rather than sensible pleasures.
  5. We, ourselves, have to make the decision.
There are a number of other great lists in this book: The Process of Suffering, The Human Value of Suffering, The Spiritual Value of Suffering, the appendix Features of a Mature Personality and more. I have copied out a few of these lists to reread each day to help solidify the teachings of this book.

This book was so go that I have added a few others, that are available in English, by Francisco Ugarte to my to be read list. This book was an excellent read and I can endorse heartily it to you. I cannot strongly enough recommend this book to you. Please read it and share it with others, for your own growth in true happiness and theirs.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books available in English by Francisco Ugarte 

Some under the name Francisco Ugarte Corcuera:
Choosing Happiness: Working Within
From Resentment to Forgiveness: A Gateway to Happiness
Deep Friendship: Moving beyond the Superficial

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